US’s Berkeley Lab creates PDK, a Fully Recyclable Plastic

A team of researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory of United States’ (US) Department of Energy’s (DOE) has designed a fully recyclable plastic which can be disassembled into its constituent parts at molecular level. The discovery was reported in journal named Nature Chemistry.

Key Facts

  • About: Scientists have created a next-generation plastic that can be fully recycled into new materials of any form, shape or colour without any loss of its performance or quality. The name of newly created recyclable plastic is Poly (Diketoenamine), or PDK.
  • Fact: All conventional plastics (like automobile parts, water bottles) are made up of large molecules called polymers. The polymers are further composed of repeating units of shorter carbon-containing compounds called
  • Problem: On one hand most plastics were never made to be recycled and on other hand problem with many plastic is that chemicals added to make them useful like fillers (which makes plastic tough) or plasticisers (which makes plastic flexible) are tightly bound to monomers units and therefore stay in plastic even after it is been processed at a recycling plant. This makes the recycling difficult.

About Poly (Diketoenamine), or PDK


With its creation scientists have discovered a new way to assemble plastics which unlike earlier takes recycling into consideration from a molecular perspective. It means that this recyclable plastic can be disassembled into its constituent parts at molecular level.

Process Involved:

Unlike conventional plastics, the monomers which make PDK plastic could be easily recovered and freed from any compounded additives just by dunking the plastic material in a highly acidic solution. The acid then breaks down PDK polymers into monomers and also allows monomers to be separated from entwined chemical additives that give plastic its actual look and feel.

Way Forward

Researchers now plan to develop PDK plastics with a range of properties from thermal to mechanical which could have multiple applications like textiles, 3D printing, and foams. They are also experimenting to expand plastic formulations by incorporating certain plant-based materials and other sustainable sources.